See Emily Play

"See Emily Play" is a song by English rock band Pink Floyd, released as their second single in June 1967.[6][7] Written by original frontman Syd Barrett and recorded on 23 May 1967, it has "The Scarecrow" as its B-side. It was released as a non-album single, but appeared as the opening track of the U.S. edition of the band's debut album The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (1967).

"See Emily Play"
Artwork for 1967 UK promotional release, commercially used for a few other European territories. Both the 1967 German single and 2013 UK reissue use the same artwork with different drawing colour. the UK retail single used a generic company sleeve
Single by Pink Floyd
Released16 June 1967
Recorded21 May 1967
StudioSound Techniques, London
LabelColumbia (EMI) (UK)
Tower (US)
Songwriter(s)Syd Barrett
Producer(s)Norman Smith
Pink Floyd singles chronology
"Arnold Layne"
"See Emily Play"
Audio sample
"See Emily Play"

"See Emily Play" is included in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll list and reached No. 6 in the United Kingdom singles chart.[8] As of 2018, the song has never been mixed to stereo, so the US album version was rechannelled and all subsequent reissues have been in mono.


"See Emily Play" is also known as "Games for May", after a free concert in which Syd Barrett's Pink Floyd performed.[9][10]

The song was reportedly about a girl named Emily, who Barrett claimed to have seen while sleeping in the woods after taking a psychedelic drug. According to A Saucerful of Secrets: The Pink Floyd Odyssey, by Nicholas Schaffner, Emily is the Honourable Emily Young,[11][12] daughter of Wayland Young, 2nd Baron Kennet and nicknamed "the psychedelic schoolgirl" at the UFO Club.[13]

It has been suggested by some that the slide guitar effect was produced by Barrett using a Zippo lighter,[14] but elsewhere that he used a plastic ruler.[15]

The train depicted on the single's sleeve was drawn by Barrett.[citation needed]


The details as to the recording remain shrouded in mystery due to the lack of paperwork in the EMI archive. Engineer Jeff Jarrett recalls that "See Emily Play" was recorded in a much longer form which was then edited down[10] for the single release. It was recorded at Sound Techniques studios on 21 May 1967.[10][16] The recording involved backward tapes, much use of echo and reverb, and the first piano bridge between the first chorus and second verse was recorded at a slow pace then sped up for the final master.[citation needed] The four-track master tape was wiped or misplaced.[citation needed] It no longer exists and has never been mixed into true stereo; it was reprocessed for fake stereo on the 1971 Relics compilation.

Barrett, reputedly, was not happy with the final studio cut, and he protested against its release, which producer Norman Smith speculated was based on his fear of commercialism. During sessions for the song David Gilmour visited the studio,[10] on Barrett's invitation, and was shocked by the perceived changes in Barrett's personality when he did not appear to recognize him.[10] For many years Gilmour would recall this, saying, "I'll go on record as saying, that was when he changed".[10]


The US single (Tower 356) was released by Tower Records three times between July 1967 and late 1968. Each time it failed to duplicate its UK success. The song only stayed in the band's set list for a few months, and was last played on 25 November 1967 in Blackpool.

"See Emily Play" later appeared on a number of compilations: Relics (1971), Works (1983), Shine On (1992), Echoes: The Best of Pink Floyd (2001),[17] The Piper at the Gates of Dawn 40th Anniversary Edition (2007), The Best of Pink Floyd: A Foot in the Door (2011) and The Early Years 1965–1972 (2016). The song was also included on the Barrett retrospective An Introduction to Syd Barrett (2010).

Television performancesEdit

Top of the Pops, BBCTV, July 1967Edit

Pink Floyd performed the song three times on BBC TV's Top of the Pops.[18][19] On each occasion, they mimed to the single, over which Barrett sang a live vocal. The BBC wiped the shows all of which were "live" transmissions. In late 2009 a badly damaged home video recording was recovered by the British Film Institute containing the first and third show the song was performed on, though only the first appearance was recoverable in part. The first performance was on the 6 July 1967 edition hosted by Alan Freeman. Parts of this performance have been recovered from the damaged video recording.[20]

They returned for the following week's edition, 13 July, hosted by Pete Murray. Barrett complained that the band shouldn't appear, because "John Lennon doesn't have to do Top of the Pops". He did perform, but without the enthusiasm of the previous week. The recoverable parts of the 6 July performance were given a public screening in London on 9 January 2010 at an event called "Missing Believed Wiped" devoted to recovered TV shows. It was the first time any footage of the performance had been seen since its original broadcast.[citation needed] The Pink Floyd management used a copy of the footage in The Early Years 1965–1972.[citation needed]

Beat-Club, Radio Bremen, August 1967 (cancelled)Edit

The band were booked to appear on this edition of Beat-Club. Barrett had suffered "nervous exhaustion" and the band decided to take a month-long break in the hope his health would recover. The appearance thus had to be cancelled.[citation needed]

Tienerklanken, VRT, February 1968Edit

In 1968, Pink Floyd travelled to Belgium where they filmed a TV special for the Dutch-language television programme Tienerklanken. Erroneously titled "Pink Floid", this special featured lip-synched promotional films for "See Emily Play", as well as for "Astronomy Domine", "The Scarecrow", "Apples and Oranges", "Paint Box", "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun", and "Corporal Clegg". This was Gilmour's first TV work with the band. Barrett was still technically a member of the band but it had recently been decided to no longer include him in gigs and shows. Gilmour, Roger Waters and Rick Wright thus had to mime to Barrett's vocals.[citation needed]


Part of the vocal melody was played on a Minimoog by Rick Wright at the very end of "Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts VI-IX)" at the end of 1975's Wish You Were Here, as a tribute to Barrett.

The final couplet from "High Hopes" ("The endless river/Forever and ever") recalls a line from See Emily Play, ("Float on a river/Forever and ever"),[21] and inspired the name of the band's final studio album, The Endless River, released in 2014.[22]

The song was played by Nick Mason's Saucerful of Secrets in 2018.[23]

"See Emily Play" has been covered by Canadian group Three to One (aka Okee Pokey Band) on the 1967 Yorkville album CTV After Four;[24] David Bowie, for his Pin Ups album in 1973; Japanese group Salon Music, for their 1984 album La Paloma Show;[citation needed] The Grapes of Wrath, as a B-side on the 1991 CD single "I Am Here"; on the 1996 Games for May EP by perfect children; Arjen Anthony Lucassen, on his 1997 album Strange Hobby; The Changelings, on their 2002 album Astronomica; Judy Dyble, for her album Spindle; David West, on the 2001 bluegrass tribute album Pickin' on Pink Floyd: A Bluegrass Tribute;[25] Martha Wainwright, on her 2008 album I Know You're Married But I've Got Feelings Too; and by 3, on the 2008 re-release of their album The End Is Begun. John Frusciante has played it live.[citation needed] All About Eve played the song live c. 1992[citation needed] and recorded a demo, which was not released until 2006 as part of the Keepsakes compilation. A parody appears on the 2013 album Cover Your Ears by French Canadian duo Sèxe Illégal. The song is renamed "Si Émile est gay" or "If Emile is gay".[citation needed]

"See Emily Play" is included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's "500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll" list. It is also the 277th most acclaimed song of all time according to Acclaimed Music.[26]


An EP including the song was released in Spain in 1967, on the La Voz De Su Amo label. All tracks were written by Syd Barrett.[27]

1."See Emily Play"2:48
3."Arnold Layne"2:50
4."Candy and a Currant Bun"2:40
Total length:10:23




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  2. ^ Schaffner, Nicholas (2005). Saucerful of Secrets: The Pink Floyd Odyssey (New ed.). London: Helter Skelter. p. 65. ISBN 1-905139-09-8.
  3. ^ Eder, Bruce. "The Piper at the Gates of Dawn [3-CD Deluxe Edition] - Pink Floyd | Release Info". AllMusic. Retrieved 2 June 2021.
  4. ^ "Pink Floyd Bio Artist". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 13 June 2018. Retrieved 23 September 2017.
  5. ^ Gallucci, Ennio (24 February 2021). "Top 20 Psychedelic Rock Songs". Ultimate Classic Rock. Retrieved 2 June 2021.
  6. ^ Strong, Martin C. (2004). The Great Rock Discography (7th ed.). Edinburgh: Canongate Books. p. 1177. ISBN 1-84195-551-5.
  7. ^ Mabbett, Andy (1995). The Complete Guide to the Music of Pink Floyd. London: Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-7119-4301-X.
  8. ^ "PINK FLOYD | Artist". Official Charts. Retrieved 27 July 2012.
  9. ^ Chapman, Rob (2010). Syd Barrett: A Very Irregular Head (Paperback ed.). London: Faber. pp. 160–161. ISBN 978-0-571-23855-2.
  10. ^ a b c d e f Manning, Toby (2006). The Rough Guide to Pink Floyd (1st ed.). London: Rough Guides. p. 38. ISBN 1-84353-575-0.
  11. ^ Biography Archived 14 March 2008 at the Wayback Machine, Emily Young Sculpture.
  12. ^ Chapman, Rob (2010). Syd Barrett: A Very Irregular Head (Paperback ed.). London: Faber. p. 161. ISBN 978-0-571-23855-2.
  13. ^ Chapman, Rob (2010). Syd Barrett: A Very Irregular Head (Paperback ed.). London: Faber. pp. 93–94. ISBN 978-0-571-23855-2.
  14. ^ [1]
  15. ^ Chapman, Rob (2010). Syd Barrett: A Very Irregular Head (Paperback ed.). London: Faber. p. 171. ISBN 978-0-571-23855-2.
  16. ^ Jones, Malcolm (2003). "The Making of The Madcap Laughs" (21st Anniversary ed.). Brain Damage. p. 29. Missing or empty |url= (help)
  17. ^ "Echoes: the album credits". Pink Floyd. Archived from the original on 2 June 2010. Retrieved 20 June 2013.
  18. ^ Schaffner, Nicholas (2005). Saucerful of Secrets: The Pink Floyd Odyssey (New ed.). London: Helter Skelter. p. 13. ISBN 1-905139-09-8.
  19. ^ Manning, Toby (2006). The Rough Guide to Pink Floyd (1st ed.). London: Rough Guides. pp. 38–39. ISBN 1-84353-575-0.
  20. ^ Johns, Matt (10 January 2010). "Pink Floyd's See Emily Play – Top Of The Pops 1967 Screening". Retrieved 5 October 2016.
  21. ^ "Pink Floyd Set To Release New Album This Fall". Retrieved 9 July 2017.
  22. ^ Everitt, Matt (9 October 2014). "Shaun Keaveny, with a Pink Floyd Exclusive, Pink Floyd Talk to 6 Music's Matt Everitt". BBC.
  23. ^ "Nick Mason's Saucerful of Secrets Setlist at The Half Moon, London".
  24. ^ "Various - CTV's After Four". Discogs.
  25. ^ Pickin on Pink Floyd: Bluegrass Tribute
  26. ^ "Acclaimed Music". Retrieved 22 April 2021.
  27. ^ "Pink Floyd - See Emily Play". Discogs.

External linksEdit